SAT Reading Comprehension: Master These Strategies

This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Jake Davidson at Veritas Prep.

The biggest mistake students make when it comes to the reading comprehension passages on the SAT is to

approach it like it is a high school English class. This type of mentality will lead to countless errors when answering questions, and falling into traps that the test makers lay purposely to mislead people who approach it like high school English.

While students have to critically analyze passages just like they do in English class, the purpose of this analysis is completely different on the SAT than in class. In class, students try to get inside the writer’s head and figure out what the author is really saying. It is encouraged to make assumptions and offer new theories about the metaphorical meanings of certain lines.

The SAT is an entirely different beast. There are no assumptions on the SAT, everything should be inferred from passages. Every correct answer choice will be evidence based and have plenty of proper backing of why it is correct. The biggest mental hurdle for students to get over when it comes to SAT reading comprehension is that there is only one answer.

While this is a big barrier for many students, once you can internalize the concept that there is only one correct answer it is off to the races for the reading comprehension section. It becomes an objective section, similar to math. Students are more comfortable when they understand that there is only one definite answer and all other possible choices are wrong for a specific reason. Approaching the SAT reading section this way will yield much stronger results than looking at it like one does in English class. There, it is probable that there are multiple explanations for any line. Escaping that mentality is critical on the SAT. Here are the best ways to do that.

Avoid saying it could be. Anytime you feel yourself saying this answer could be right, or the author could be saying, or anything with the words could be in it, the answer you are looking at is most likely wrong. The reason for this is when you are saying could be, you are falling back into the high school English trap of assuming. Any assumption on SAT reading should be strictly avoided. Making assumptions and saying it could be are the easiest ways to get a question wrong.

Attack every answer choice. Instead of saying an answer could be right, get in the mindset of attacking each answer choice and using evidence to show why it is wrong. This subtle shift in mentality will have incredible results for your test performance on this section. The reason for this is attacking answer choices gets you in the habit of using the passages as specific evidence, and approaching it in a more objective fashion.

The one answer choice that you cannot prove to be wrong is invariably the correct choice. Even if an answer seems 95% right, it is wrong. The test makers unfortunately don’t hand out partial credit for getting the second best answer choice. Attacking answer choices helps you make sure that you are picking the best answer only.

These mental shifts will be instrumental in optimizing your performance on the passage based reading on the test. Ensuring that you get out of the high school English mindset and into objective, inference based SAT reading is imperative in boosting your score. The best way to approach the reading comprehension section is to treat it just like math. Objectively, there is only one correct answer. The other four choices are wrong, and there is always evidence to prove that fact.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free SAT resources, including free SAT video lessons.

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